Quick Reviews: Wanna One’s “1¹¹=1”, Dress’s “Twentyseven”, Alshain’s “Me-low Volume 1”

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Wanna One – 1¹¹=1 (Power of Destiny)

Release: November 19, 2018
Label: Swing Entertainment, Stone Music Entertainment
Distributor: Genie Music, Stone Music Entertainment
Genre: Dance pop, electronic

Project groups of the Produce series mold have a certain built-in sentimental feel to them, given their finite and pre-defined promotion periods. I.O.I and JBJ (among others) have already melded this sentimentality into their music to varying degrees, but I think Wanna One’s first and final full-length album explores this theme more thoroughly than any other project group album yet. There’s a thematic focus on the members’ serendipitous coming-together, lyrics that sing of enduring love (“Deeper”) and hopes of reunion (“One Love”), and a bittersweet tinge to even the song’s uptempo tracks: “Flowerbomb”, penned by the group’s own Ha Sung-woon, pairs the chorus’s explosive stutter synths with thoughtful lyrics that deftly weave the usual and literal meanings of “fireworks”.

The patient efforts pay off, and 1¹¹=1 ends up a pretty narratively cohesive album. It does feel somewhat muted, and there isn’t the same song-to-song excellence we saw from “Energetic” or even this year’s “Light”. Still, the overall execution makes this a satisfying culmination of the arithmetic series, and if this is really it, of Wanna One’s discography.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. Destiny (Intro)
    Written by Galactika; composed and arranged by Galactika and Athena
  2. 봄바람 (Spring Breeze)
    Written and composed by iHwak and Flow Blow; arranged by Flow Blow
  3. 집 (One’s Place)
    Written, composed and arranged by
  4. 불꽃놀이 (Flowerbomb)
    Written and composed by Ha Sung-woon, O.R.O., Vendors; arranged by O.R.O. and
  5. 묻고싶다 (One Love)
    Written, composed and arranged by 13
  6. Deeper
    Written by iHwak and Royal Dive; composed by Christian Fast, Christoffer Lauridsen, Didrik Thott, iHwak, Royal Dive; arranged by Royal Dive
  7. 술래 (Hide and Seek)
    Written and composed by Park Jung-wook, Kim Joon-il, Space One; arranged by Park Jung-wook, Kim Joon-il, Space One, Jung Chan-hee
  8. Awake!
    Written by and Park Woo-jin; composed and arranged by
  9. 12번째 별 (12th Star) (CD Only)
    Written and composed by Images and Cho Eun-byul; arranged by Images
  10. 소나무 (Pine Tree)
    Written by Galactika; composed and arranged by Galactika and Athena
  11. Beautiful (Part II)
    Written by Tenzo and Kebee; composd by Tenzo and Wooziq; arranged by Wooziq

Dress – Twentyseven

Release: November 23, 2018
Label: Highline Entertainment
Distributor: Loen Entertainment
Genre: R&B, electronic

Producer Dress, with past affiliations ranging from The Black Label to Show Me The Money to most recently Starship X, has been quietly putting out these inscrutable and really weird singles over the year. (July’s “Hug & Kiss” was maybe one of the more shocking releases of the year in R&B.) This EP is considerably tamer, with no operatic horrorcore or glitchy beats sticking around. The sound-set is now melancholy slow jam, and it’s just not quite as remarkable or memorable. Still, the easy nostalgia of “Painting School” is well worth your time, and Sogumm returns in “I Need You” to put in a raw performance that rivals what Lydia Paek and Cifika have done with Dress. Stay for the extended outro.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 2years
    Composed by Dress, Midnight, 9; arranged by Dress, Midnight
  2. 미술학원 (Painting School) (Feat. Seo Hyun-su, Byung Un)
    Written by Seo Hyun-su and Byung Un; composed by Dress, Seo Hyun-su, Midnight; arranged by Dress
  3. 잘할걸 (I Need You) (Feat. Sogumm, Byung Un)
    Written by Sogumm and Byung Un; composed by Dress and Sogumm; arranged by Dress
  4. 11월27일 (27-Nov) (Feat. Jane)
    Written and composed by Dress and Jane; arranged by Dress

Alshain – Me-low Volume 1

Release: November 23, 2018
Label: Independent
Distributor: Poclanos
Genre: R&B, hip-hop

It really seemed like Alshain dropped one of the best albums of 2014 in his debut, and then dropped off the face of the earth. He’s resurfaced this year with a couple singles (and in directing credits of the music video for Taeyeon’s “Something New”, interestingly), and nearly picks up where he left off in this second album. Me-low 1 isn’t quite as richly arranged as its predecessor, instead opting for the brooding loops and thunderous bass of trap beats, and Alshain doesn’t bring anything particularly innovative to this arena. But there’s still an airtight attention to detail in the instrumentation, and a unique and palpable groove to Alshain’s floaty, lightly autotuned singing. The washed-out string-and-piano sample of “Goya” is ambitious, and I hope subsequent work can recapture the old magic that it hints at.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

(All songs written, composed and arranged by Alshain; featured artists also have songwriting credits.)

  1. Goya
  2. 굳이 말해야 돼? (Do I Have to Say It?) (Feat. Kramp)
  3. Say Nah (Feat. Dustyy Han)
  4. Mumble Talk
  5. Right Time (Two Heads) (Feat. Minje)
  6. Crack Soul
  7. Sick

Album cover images from Bugs Music (1) (2) (3). Lyric translations by author.

Related writing: Alshain – Natural Hi Fi (2014 in Review)